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Britain pushing to ease sanctions on BP gas field: report

BP logo is seen at a fuel station of British oil company BP in St. Petersburg, October 18, 2012. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain could be close to agreeing a deal to ease sanctions that have stopped gas production from the North Sea's Rhum field, jointly owned by BP (LSE:BP.) and the National Iranian Oil Co., the Mail on Sunday newspaper said.

Production from the field, which once supplied 5 percent of Britain's gas output, has been suspended since 2010 as a result of international sanctions against Iran.

But with signs of a thaw in relations between Iran and the West, the government now hopes to win agreement from the European Union and the United States for a sanctions waiver in the near future, the newspaper said, citing people close to the talks.

One stumbling block to a deal, however, could be concerns from companies involved in financing and servicing the field that any exemption for the producers would not fully protect them from legal action, it added.

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: "We are working to ensure the long-term security of the Rhum gas field but no decision has been made at this time on a solution."

A spokesman for BP declined to comment on the possibility of a waiver being granted.

"As operator of the field our priorities are two-fold - to ensure the field remains safe and that we remain compliant with the law," he said. "It is up to the government to decide on the longer-term options."

(Reporting by Paul Sandle and Andrew Callus; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)